Finally: a battle royale game that’s just about having fun.
There’s no denying the immediate appeal of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Bright, bold, brash and colourful; it’s essentially Takeshi’s Castle mixed with a bag of Skittles. In it, you play as one of 60 squishy jellybean-shaped fellows battling their way through a myriad of minigames. Sometimes you’ll be working as a team, sometimes it’s every person for themselves. But ultimately, there can only be one winner.
The minigames you’ll get are selected at random, although it goes without saying you’ll end up being more familiar with some than others. The most common involve you racing to a finish line, negotiating various obstacles along the way. Maybe you’ll have to make your way across a path of swaying see-saws, or maybe you’ll have to navigate walls of doors which constantly open and close. By itself, no obstacle course is particularly tricky; it’s when you add in the other 59 contestants, all vying for their qualifying place, that things get heated.
“Bright, bold, brash and colourful; it’s essentially Takeshi’s Castle mixed with a bag of Skittles”
If you’re a good person, you’ll probably try and ignore the battling crowds as you dodge marshmallowy obstacles and jump over spinning neon hammers on your way to the exit. But not everyone is a good person. You’ll have to contend with people grabbing and pushing you, trying their damnedest to throw you into the abyss below. It’s chaotic, it’s stressful – but hey, it’s all part of the fun. Being a good person in Fall Guys rarely pays off, so if you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em.
Not all of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout‘s minigames are solo obstacle courses. A number of rounds require you to work as part of a team. There’s a football tournament with oversized balls, challenging two teams to score goals against each other. There’s another where you need to jump through as many hoops as possible, racking up points for your team. Others employ King of the Hill or Capture the Flag style gameplay. None of them are particularly fun to begin with, and are perhaps the weakest part of the experience; it’s a game where only one person can win, but in those, your success depends wholly on other people. You may perform perfectly, but other jokers on your team can let you down.
“The enjoyment that can be had from a game like this lives and dies with its user base”
And that’s the issue with Fall Guys in a nutshell. Ultimately, the enjoyment that can be had from a game like this lives and dies with its user base. A week out of the door and it’s thriving in terms of numbers, so there are no problems getting matches. But already it’s suffering from cheaters and hackers utilising third-party software to leverage themselves a win. And should the playerbase’s enthusiasm for Fall Guys wane – as it may well do a month or two down the line, or when the next flash-in-the-pan multiplayer game launches – your ability to play at all becomes non-existent.
In fairness, these aren’t problems specific to Fall Guys; the same can be said for practically any online-only game. But it’s an important thing to note. Where’s the fun of running up an inflatable jelly slide to claim an oversized crown if someone’s just going to use a cheat to get there before you? And if (or when) the playerbase dwindles too low, there’ll be no inflatable jelly slide to run up, period.
That’s not the only problem the game faces, either. Currently, its unprecedented popularity means server and connection issues are all too common. Even if you can get into a game, it’s rare everything is working as intended. Nothing sours the experience quite like making it down to the last 10 or so players, only to be met with a connection error message.
“There is no denying the immediate appeal of Fall Guys”
It also does that old predatory thing of luring players in with cosmetic purchases. You can dress up and paint your jellybean guy to your heart’s content – except a very limited amount of content is available at the beginning. As you play, you’ll earn credits which you can use to buy more stuff, but you’ll have to play a lot of games before you can unlock anything truly meaningful. Of course, those credits can be purchased with real money for those of us who really can’t wait to dress up like a pirate.
But leaving the negativity aside, let’s go back to the first point in this review: there is no denying the immediate appeal of Fall Guys. When you ignore its microtransactions – which, admittedly, is easy to do – and if you’re lucky enough to avoid server-side woes, the act of playing is riotous. It’s a thrill when you qualify in any round; an absolute nerve-wracking joy if you make it as far as the last minigame. Not every game is fun to play, but most of the obstacle courses are entertaining to run through; even if you fall off, you’ll laugh and keep going.
“It’s a fun little game while it lasts – but the question is, just how long will it last?”
It’s also almost as much fun to watch as it is to play. If you lose, you have the option to watch other players compete through the remaining rounds. Sitting back and watching others fight dirty and tussle to be reigning champion is hilarious. Another player pushing you off a platform isn’t cool. But watching them do it to someone else? Comedy gold.
After several hours with Fall Guys over the course of a few evenings, we’ve already seen everything the game has to offer. The desire to jump back in is already waning. It’s a fun little game while it lasts – but the question is, just how long will it last? There’s no denying it’s one of the most accessible battle royale games out there; even if you’re not a fan of competitive multiplayer, Fall Guys is easy to jump into and get a kick out of. But it’s a kick that is more than likely short-lived.